Smart Publishing: Five Questions to Help You Plan Ahead

Like many writers, you might have a deep, driving desire to publish your works. But where do you start? Book publishing is a whole new world separate from writing, so don’t worry if you have questions.

While you’re narrowing your search for a publisher, whether you chose to publish with new-school publishing companies like Abbott Press or you want to take your shot at going the traditional route, it’s best to have a plan in mind for your work. It’s never too early to start, and it’s actually best to think about these five questions before you even start writing your book.

1. Who is your target audience? If your first thought is, “Well, that’s easy: everyone!” then you might need to reevaluate your approach. Really get specific: Mothers? Working mothers? Disabled middle-aged males? Singles who love healthy cooking? High school math teachers who love punk rock? Consider characteristics such as age, gender, career, income, residence/location and education. Perhaps there are multiple groups of people who would be interested in your book, but it’s best to narrow your focus from the start so you have a clear target.

2. Who are your competitors, and what are they doing? Let’s face it: the book market is large and thus, highly competitive. But, with a little detective work, you can use this to your advantage. So put on your best detective hat and cloak, grab your handy magnifying glass, and determine what kinds of books are selling the best in your specific genre. Identify experts or leaders in the field. Scrutinize your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. Look at the selling price of other books based on the subject, binding type, book size and page count. This market research can help you better understand the current trends in the book selling marketplace and how your book can nudge its way into it.

3. What’s the best way to reach your targeted audience(s)? Whether you choose to publish new- or old-school, you’ll most likely need to put forth marketing efforts if you want your book to sell. Find out how to reach your niche audience, whether it is through a particular magazine, website or geographic location. When searching for your audience, think about blogs, forums, social networking sites, radio stations, events, and connections to a particular city, region, culture or demographic. It’s best to start locally, and then expand outward as you saturate the market.

4. How can you best position your book? Develop your book’s position with your target audience. This can be summed up in a concise statement that highlights your book’s unique selling position, or what separates your book from the crowd in a bustling book market. Why should a reader buy your book over all the other books out there? Try to answer thoroughly yet briefly. Be persuasive and engaging.

5. What’s your budget for your marketing plan? How much can you realistically spend on marketing over the next six months? Over the next two years? Consider the type of media you will use, promotional services and all other costs associated with marketing. Some marketing efforts are extremely affordable, while others are outrageously expensive. Your budget will ultimately affect which promotional strategies you can afford, but remember: a higher price tagged promotional strategy does not always produce a better result.

Most importantly, when it comes to publishing your book, make sure that you’ve set realistic, attainable and definable goals for yourself. It’s fine to set the bar high, just make sure that they are goals you’re prepared to work towards.

Think about these five questions now, and you’ll be ready to hit the ground running as soon as you get that first copy of your book in your hands.

What other questions have you asked yourself that have helped you prepare for publication?